Convicted spy Pollard released from prison after 30 years

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Israeli Spy Pollard Set for Release

WASHINGTON (AP) — Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard was released from prison early Friday, culminating an extraordinary espionage case that complicated American-Israeli relations for 30 years and became a periodic bargaining chip between two allies.

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"The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. "As someone who raised Jonathan's case for years with successive American presidents, I had long hoped this day would come," he said. The federal Bureau of Prisons also confirmed that Pollard was no longer in custody but provided no other details.

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Convicted spy Pollard released from prison after 30 years
FILE - In this May 15, 1998 file photo, Jonathan Pollard speaks during an interview in a conference room at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, N.C. Lawyers for the convicted spy Pollard say the U.S. has granted his parole and he will be released in November. Pollard, sentenced to life in prison, has served 30 years for spying for Israel. (AP Photo/Karl DeBlaker, File)
Israeli Communications Minister Limor Livnat, left, poses for a picture with convicted spy Jonathan Pollard during a visit Wednesday, Dec. 17, 1997, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C. The two are holding a book Livnat gave Pollard celebrating Israel's 50th anniversary, which will occur in 1998, the same year Pollard hopes to be set free. (AP Photo/Ayala Bar)
Jonathan Pollard is shown in this 1985 photo. Pollard, a civilian Navy intelligence analyst, pleaded guilty in 1986 to spying for Israel and is serving a life sentence. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
038500 01: Anne Henderson Pollard and her husband Jonathan Pollard stand at their wedding August 9, 1985 in Italy. The couple were arrested and accused of selling American secrets to Israel and China. (Photo by Liaison)
Israeli protesters hold a sign depicting U.S. President Barack Obama and Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, during a demonstration calling for his release, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Obama’s trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank will take place March 20-22, and it is the U.S. leader’s first trip to the region as president, and his first overseas trip since being reelected. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
In this March 30, 2014, photo U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens to a question at a news conference in Paris. The United States is talking with Israel about the possibility of releasing convicted spy Jonathan Pollard early from his life sentence as an incentive in the troubled Mideast peace negotiations, a person familiar with the situation said Monday March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
Israeli protesters hold posters demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, as they stand outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, June 19, 2011. Israelis are rallying behind convicted spy Jonathan Pollard like never before, urging the U.S. on Sunday to let the former Pentagon analyst leave prison to attend his father's funeral. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Israeli protesters hold posters demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, as they stand outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, June 19, 2011. Israelis are rallying behind convicted spy Jonathan Pollard like never before, urging the U.S. on Sunday to let the former Pentagon analyst leave prison to attend his father's funeral. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Israelis hold posters of Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted of spying for Israel during a protest calling for his release during a meeting Israel's President Shimon Peres and a delegation of 35 Republican congressmen, outside the president's residence in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Israeli protesters hold posters demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, as they stand outside the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, June 19, 2011. Israelis are rallying behind convicted spy Jonathan Pollard like never before, urging the U.S. on Sunday to let the former Pentagon analyst leave prison to attend his father's funeral. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
A poster showing U.S. President George W. Bush, center, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, left, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, right, is seen on the side of a bus in central Jerusalem, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008. The banner, placed by a group calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard who was convicted in the U.S. on charges of spying for Israel in the the 1980's, refers also to Israeli soldiers being held by militants in Gaza and Lebanon. Bush will make his first visit to Israel and the West Bank as President next week. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
Israeli protesters hold posters demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, as they stand outside the David Citadel Hotel where U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is staying in Jerusalem, Saturday, June 18, 2005. A handful of demonstrators gathered to protest against Rice, Israel's Gaza disengagement plan and for the release of Pollard. Rice is on a two-day official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
An Israeli protester blows a whistle while wearing a shirt supporting the Jewish settler movement as she stands in front of a poster demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, as they stand outside the David Citadel Hotel where U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is staying in Jerusalem, Saturday, June 18, 2005. A handful of demonstrators gathered to protest against Rice, Israel's Gaza disengagement plan and for the release of Pollard. Rice is on a two-day official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
Demonstrators demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who is serving life sentence in a U.S. prison for spying for Israel, hold signs and pictures of Pollard outside Israeli President Moshe Katsav's residence as U.S. first lady Laura Bush meets with Gila Katsav, the wife of Israel's President inside, Sunday, May 22, 2005. Laura Bush arrived for a one-day visit in Israel and the West Bank town of Jericho, as part of a Mideast tour meant to promote women's rights and help defuse growing anti-American sentiment in the region.(AP Photo / Pier Paolo Cito)
Demonstrators demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who is serving life sentence in a U.S. prison for spying for Israel, hold signs and pictures of Pollard outside Israeli President Moshe Katsav's residence as U.S. first lady Laura Bush meets with Gila Katsav, the wife of Israel's President inside, Sunday May 22, 2005. Laura Bush arrived for a one-day visit in Israel and the West Bank town of Jericho, as part of a Mideast tour meant to promote women's rights and help defuse growing anti-American sentiment in the region.(AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)
Demonstrators demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American Jew who is serving life sentence in a U.S. prison for spying for Israel, hold signs and pictures of Pollard during the visit of first lady Laura Bush at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City Sunday May 22, 2005. Protesters besieged Laura Bush during her visit Sunday to two of Jerusalem's most sacred sites, with Israeli police locking arms to restrain the crowd and Secret Service agents packed tightly around America's first lady.(AP Photo/Inbal Rose)
Israelis, wearing handcuffs, attend a demonstration to support former U.S Navy officer Jonathan Pollard, pictured in the posters, who is serving a life sentence in the U.S for spying for Israel, on the 20th anniversary of his imprisonment, in downtown Jerusalem, Sunday Nov. 21, 2004. Pollard, 49, was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he copied and gave to his Israeli handlers classified documents. Pollard was caught in November 1985 and arrested after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Israelis, wearing handcuffs, attend a demonstration to support former U.S Navy officer Jonathan Pollard, pictured in the poster, who is serving a life sentence in the U.S for spying for Israel, in the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his imprisonment, in downtown Jerusalem, Sunday Nov. 21, 2004. Pollard, 49, was a civilian intelligence analyst for the U.S. Navy when he copied and gave to his Israeli handlers classified documents. Pollard was caught in November 1985 and arrested after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
BUTNER, NC - APRIL 1: A sign stands at the U.S. The Federal Bureau of Prisons Correctional Complex, where convicted Israeli spy Jonathan J. Pollard is housed, on April 1, 2014 in Butner, North Carolina. Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst serving a life sentence for spying for Israel more than a quarter century ago, could be released under the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
People protest calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard (portrait), a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, during a protest outside US Secretary of State John Kerry's hotel in Jerusalem on April 8, 2013. Pollard is a convicted Israeli spy and a former US Naval civilian intelligence analyst who received a life sentence in the mid 1980s AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI (Photo credit should read AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM , ISRAEL - MARCH 21: (ISRAEL OUT) Israelis protest against U.S. President Barack Obama and call for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed in 1987 on charges of spying on the U.S. March 21, 2013 in Jerusalem , Israel. This is Obama's first visit as president to the region and his itinerary includes meetings with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as well as a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - MARCH 19: (ISRAEL OUT) Israelis protest against US President Barack Obama as they call for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, during a demonstration outside the Israeli President's residence on March 19, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Obama will make his first visit as President to the region tomorrow, and his itinerary will include meetings with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders as well as a visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
An Orthodox Jewish man walks past a banner on March 13, 2013, in Jerusalem, calling on US President Barack Obama to free Jonathan Pollard, an American who was convicted of spying for Israel and who is serving a life sentence since 1987 in the United State. Jerusalem and other cities in Israel and in the Palestinian West Bank are preparing for the upcoming visit of US President Obama's three-day visit which will begin on March 20. AFP/PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI (Photo credit should read AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israeli youth demonstrator holds a picture and an effigy of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, during a protest calling for his release in front of the American consulate in Jerusalem on July 11, 2011. Pollard is a convicted Israeli spy and a former United States Naval civilian intelligence analyst who received a life sentence in the mid 1980s. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli right-wing demonstrstors carry signs calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American who was jailed for life in 1987 on charges of spying on the United States, during a demonstration in Jerusalem on May 12, 2008. Pollard is a convicted Israeli spy and a former United States Naval civilian intelligence analyst who received a life sentence in the mid 1980s. The Israeli government has made several requests for Pollard's release, all of them declined by US authorities. AFP PHOTO/JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - FEBRUARY 6: An Israeli calls for the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard from U.S. prison as he protests outside the Foreign Ministry during visitng U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom February 6, 2005 in Jerusalem, Israel. Israel is expected to release hundreds of Palestinians from its prisons as part of a ceasefire deal with the new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)
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Pollard's release from a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina came nearly 30 years to the day after his arrest for providing large amounts of classified U.S. government information to Israel.

Pollard had been granted parole this summer from a life sentence imposed in 1987. His lawyers have said that they have secured a job and housing for him in the New York area, without elaborating. The terms of his parole require him to remain in the United States for at least five years, though supporters — including Netanyahu and some members of Congress — are seeking permission for him to move to Israel immediately.

The saga involving Pollard for years divided public opinion in the United States and became both an irritant and a periodic bargaining chip between the United States and Israel.

His release caps one of the most high-profile spy sagas in modern American history, a case that over the years sharply divided public opinion and became a diplomatic sticking point. Supporters have long maintained that he was punished excessively for actions taken on behalf of an American ally while critics, including government officials, derided him as a traitor who sold out his country.

"I don't think there's any doubt that the crime merited a life sentence, given the amount of damage that Mr. Pollard did to the United States government," said Joseph diGenova, who prosecuted the case as U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. "I would have been perfectly pleased if he had spent the rest of his life in jail."

Seymour Reich, a former president of B'nai Brith International who visited Pollard twice in prison, said that while he believed Pollard broke the law and deserved to be punished, his sentence was overly harsh. Like other supporters, he believes Pollard was "double-crossed" into thinking he'd be afforded leniency in exchange for a guilty plea.

"I hope that he settles down and lives the remaining years as best as he can," Reich said.

Pollard, a former Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested on Nov. 21, 1985, after trying unsuccessfully to gain asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He had earlier drawn the suspicion of a supervisor for handling large amounts of classified materials unrelated to his official duties.

U.S. officials have said Pollard, over a series of months and for a salary, provided intelligence summaries and huge quantities of classified documents on the capabilities and programs of Israel's enemies. He pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage and was given a life sentence a year later.

Though he has said his guilty plea was coerced, he has also expressed regret, telling The Associated Press in a 1998 interview that he did not consider himself a hero.

"There is nothing good that came as a result of my actions," he said. "I tried to serve two countries at the same time. That does not work."

Under sentencing rules in place at the time of his crime, he became presumptively eligible for parole in November — 30 years after his arrest. The Justice Department agreed not to oppose parole at a July hearing that took into account his behavior in prison and likelihood to commit future crimes.

The parole decision was applauded in Israel, which after initially claiming that he was part of a rogue operation, acknowledged him in the 1990s as an agent and granted him citizenship. Israelis have long campaigned for his freedom, and Netanyahu said last summer that he had consistently raised the issue of his release with American officials.

Pollard's lawyers also have sought permission for him to travel immediately to Israel, and two Democratic members of Congress — Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler, both of New York — have called on the Justice Department to grant the request so that Pollard can live with his family and "resume his life there." The congressmen say Pollard accepts that such a move may bar him from ever re-entering the United States.

The White House has said that it has no intention of altering the conditions of Pollard's parole, and even friends and supporters say they don't know exactly what's next for him.

President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser reiterated that stance on Friday, telling reporters traveling with Obama to Malaysia that "this is something that Prime Minister Netanyahu has regularly raised" in discussions with the United States.

"Obviously, the one thing at issue is the requirement that he remains in the United States," Rhodes said. "But again, the president does not have any plans to alter the terms of his parole."

Last year, the U.S. dangled the prospect of freeing Pollard early as part of a package of incentives to keep Israel at the negotiating table during talks with the Palestinians. But the talks fell apart, and Pollard remained in prison.

More details about his plans were expected to emerge after his release.

"It's a very unusual situation ... I've been working with Mr. Pollard for 20 years, and even I don't know where he is going or what he will be doing," said Farley Weiss, an Orthodox rabbi who has been lobbying on Pollard's behalf for two decades.

Associated Press writers Ian Deitch in Jerusalem and David B. Caruso in New York contributed to this report.


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